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'Dead Girl Walking', Chris Brookmyre

After a seven year break, Chris Brookmyre has finally brought back his old protagonist, investigative journo Jack Parlabane, in all his rough-cut, cynical glory. Still nursing the injuries he sustained during the Leveson Inquiry, and now the prime suspect in another leak investigation, Jack has a new if somewhat shaky alias, his old and jaded attitude, and a distinct lack of work to keep him fed and watered. So, when an old friend calls offering him an investigative role at a healthy daily rate, his acceptance is half-hearted, for all that it is swift.

Henke Gunn, the beautiful, micro-managing lead singer of overnight success band ‘Savage Earth Heart’ has gone missing while on tour, a fact that her increasingly concerned manager - Parlabane’s cashed-up old friend - has managed to keep quiet for fear of spooking their newly signed record label. If her fellow band members know anything about her disappearance, they aren’t talking, and Jack soon comes to suspect that more than one has motive enough to have been involved in a disappearance which seems ever more sinister.

Brookmyre has painted a broad canvas for Parlabane in this, his sixth full-length outing. From the busy capitals of Europe - London, Berlin, and Rome - through warm-up gigs in working class towns the length and breadth of England, and with stops in his old stomping grounds of Edinburgh and Glasgow, and even a visit to the remote and insular Shetland Isles, ‘Savage Earth Heart’ doesn’t stand still, and a slightly out-of-breath Parlabane has no choice by to follow in their wake.

Brookmyre’s dual narrative, half told by Parlabane, half by one of the young women in the band, can be jarring at times - Jack is an old friend that Brookmyre knows well, worn but comfortable; by comparison, portraying a young twenty-something musician, struggling with her sexual identity as much as her musical voice, is something that he manages in a workmanlike manner, but not something that sits quite as easily. That said, Parlabane’s own brand of increasingly tired cynicism, his irreverent disregard for authority, and his unfailing ability to make a situation worse just by smiling and asking innocuous questions, more than makes up for any change of pace in other parts of the novel, and will doubtless make him new friends as much as they please those who have been eagerly awaiting his return.

'Dead Girl Walking' by Chris Brookmyre will be published in trade paperback by Little & Brown on 22 January 2015.

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